The group caught a BBQ bus at around 7am to prepare for a tour of an area of New Zealand called Milford Sound. A sound is a like a fjord which is like a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. I know you are probably asking what the hell is a BBQ bus but that is easily explained. Our tour bus had a bbq grill behind it that is used to cook lunch. Cheesy I know and you’d think that it would bring down the experience but you’d be wrong. We made a lunch stop at an awesome area on a picture perfect day and I’d say it was as close to paradise as I’ve come. Our guide was also very knowledgeable of the area and did a good job of explaining various scenes. We also spent about 6 hours on a bus driving through vast open areas of hills and mountains where there were thousands of sheep and cattle. There is no point to describe what we saw in words at the sound so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. For some reason I also can’t remember what we did for the evening but nothing sticks out to me as being spectacular. This was a long day that led to an early night.
The stupid thing I did on the first night was clean my contacts with my Mom’s hard contact cleaner. I did this to only one of the contacts and tried to clean it off with regular solution but the damage had been done. As I put the contact in my eye it created a huge burning sensation and I was practically blinded for a period of time. I kept cleaning it off and it seemed to get better but little did I know what I was in store for. I managed to go on a run with blurry vision around the lake and everything seemed to be getting better. The hills in New Zealand are ridiculous and have inclines that go on for hundreds of yards at a time which makes them virtually impossible to run for long distances. After the run we went with Nicole to plan a sightseeing trip at Milford Sound. At this point my eye started killing and I had to remove (and lose) the contact completely which was a tenuous situation because I only brought one extra contact on the trip which was incredibly fateful because who the hell brings one contact on a trip? The craziest thing about the situation was that my eye was killing and for some reason my nose wouldn’t stop running which went on for what seemed like hours. You can only imagine how much fun I was to be around at lunch. Comments included “You look like death” – Jeff, “It looks fine” – Laura, “Do you need an eye patch?” – My mom. Fortunately I found an optometrist who took a minute to make sure there was no damage done and I got lucky he was so nice and saw me right away. He said it would get better and I went back to the room to get a few hours of rest.
When I woke up my eye was almost normal and I was ready for the night. We went to the Casino for dinner which had a 2 for 25 deal and the food was decent. After dinner we headed to a bar called the Bunker for a few more drinks (pictures below). Nance went home after that and Jeff, Laura, Nicole, and I went to Harry’s to meet up with some of Jeff and Nicole’s friends who were having a pajama party. Oddly enough, they were the only people there wearing pajamas and nobody really seemed to notice or care. We threw back a couple bourbon shots and played a few games of pool before heading off to another bar. An interesting note was that the locals had this American football that unscrewed and acted like a flask which stored a decent amount of vodka. It was a great disguise for sneaking alcohol into the bar. At the next bar there was this French guy who got Jeff to say that “he was gay” while Jeff was practicing his French. It was pretty funny because Frenchie was by himself and completely hammered.
After this bar we went back to the casino to play some blackjack. The bouncer at the door wasn’t going to let me in because my one eye looked beat red and apparently I was swaying. I was pretty drunk at this point but no where near TC drunk and the supervisor eventually let me in. Jeff and I lost 80 bucks each before we had our final stop of the night in front of a random bar where I struck up a conversation with a Brit. He was telling me how awesome America was and I had to be joking that I didn’t know that America was the best country in the world. After that Nicole got a courdon blue for some unknown reason and something you wouldn’t see in America happened in the convenience store. A drunk guy came waltzing in being loud and knocked over a display and no employee in the store even waved a finger or said anything. It was like it wasn’t a big deal and he quietly cleaned it up and left. After that I went back to the hotel at about 2-3am and got ready for Day 3.
I’ve arrived back in the States after a week long trip to New Zealand. I’m contemplating how best to go about a trip report and I’ve decided to break it up in multiple segments. I’m going to use this post to describe my general thoughts on life in New Zealand and then use a few different posts to detail our trip. I have tons of pictures which we took and also quite a bit more from Nicole’s camera. If you’re her friend on Facebook you’ll probably have seen some, but for those who aren’t her camera will give better detail than mine. I want to add that I spent the last 24 hours traveling and I’m not sure how long it will take me to get detailed posts up, probably a few days. Considering this is probably one of the most exciting things I’ve done in a while, I recommend checking back over the course of the next short period of time for updates.
When your plane arrives in New Zealand you immediately realize the incredible nature of the scenery. It’s strikingly beautiful and nothing like I’ve ever seen before. We spent most of our time in Queenstown which is where Jeff and Nicole have found residence and the pic below gives you an idea of the city. There’s a huge lake in the middle and the town wraps around the lake.
Once you get past the beauty you have to adapt to the city and the people. Queenstown is more of a tourist attraction and it took quite a bit of getting used to how things are priced. The New Zealand dollar is a bit weaker than the US dollar but they make up for that by jacking up the price. Beers are the first thing to notice and a $5.00 beer is considered a very good deal. A 20oz bottle of water will run about $3.00. A major difference though in New Zealand is that there isn’t tipping. Meaning that the tip (and tax) is calculated in the price which also makes everything look super inflated. When you first get there and see a cheeseburger for $22 NZD you get a little dizzy. You start to get used to it but on a whole the US has significantly cheaper prices on mostly everything. It was odd seeing a $250 icebreaker sweatshirt and a $350 pair of Uggs.
The next thing I noticed was that there is much less “free” internet. Businesses aren’t handing out free wi-fi and I can only imagine that people aren’t streaming Netflix like here in the States. The TV is also on a much lesser scale from what we Americans are used to. I think our hotel had 10 channels or so and Jeff was used to getting 5. They don’t censor anything on their TV either which was interesting when Laura and I were watching Daisy of Love and they weren’t bleeping out F bombs. We hardly watched any TV though and I don’t think many people are as infatuated with it because there is so much outdoorsey things going on. I think this has it’s pluses and minuses. Another point of interest is that sports are cricket and rugby with a smattering of soccer.
The final thing which I’m going to write about in this post is that THIS IS THE LIFE. Although not a practical lifestyle for 7 days, this is exactly what I would want to do with my free time. We spent quality family time together, good exercise in hikes and biking, and the fact that I didn’t have my phone on me for 7 days was unbelievably liberating. You could live a long, stress free life this way. Just going on a run next to a lake with amazing rolling mountains in the background is such a better feeling than running on a treadmill or on the streets of Manayunk. I just felt alive climbing Ben Lomond and trips like this make you want to travel more. You work so you can spend time this way. No big screen TV could make up for this experience. It was a mere 7 days in a different country but this time spent and memories made will never be forgotten. I see what’s out there and now I know how good it can be. Here are a few pics below which might pop up in later posts.